Cop audits: Legislation moving through the House and Senate would help guide law enforcement on publicly accounting for their use of automated license plate reader technology. But there are differences between the two bills.
House File 3259, authored by Rep. Peggy Scott, R-Andover, tightens the rules related to biennial audits of both automated license plate readers (ALPRs) and police body cams. Senate File 2922, by Sen. Warren Limmer, R-Maple Grove, pertains only to ALPRs.
In some ways the bills are identical; both are the products of summer study by the Legislative Commission on Data Practices, where Scott and Limmer are members.
Both bills for would require that ALPR audits be completed by July 1 of each biennium’s odd-numbered year. That fixes statutory language that had agencies submitting reports two years after either acquiring or implementing the technology, leading to staggered audit submissions to the state.
Both bills also lay out in greater detail the “log-of-use” of data to be included in audits. They would need to include more detailed data on photographed license plates that identified stolen cars, led to drivers with outstanding warrants and that resulted in arrests, among other information.
In Data Practices Commission hearings last summer, Scott and Limmer both criticized law enforcement agencies that turned over short audit summaries with scanty details about how the surveillance technology is being used.
Scott’s bill goes further than Limmer’s by also touching on police body cameras. She would require law enforcement agencies to adopt written ALPR and body-cam procedures so that employees would access non-public data only with written authorization from superiors and based on “reasonable suspicion” that data is pertinent to a criminal investigation.
Her bill also differs from Limmer’s by requiring that ALPR audits be done only by private auditor, with the exception of the State Auditor’s office.
In a March 8 meeting of the Civil Law and Data Practices Committee where Scott is chair, she said she wants to prevent city police departments from hiring their local county law enforcement auditors to perform their audits.
“What we don’t want is Hennepin County to do the city of Minneapolis’ ALPR audits,” Scott said. “We want a little more distance than that.”
Limmer, who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee that passed his bill to the Finance Committee on Monday, adopted a more relaxed view in amending his bill.
“The key was not to have law enforcement auditing law enforcement—that there be a separation,” Limmer said. “But at same time, we want to be practical and not so extreme.”
He deleted original language that required private companies to perform the audits. Now, his bill only requires that an “independent auditor” do the study. That could allow, for example, Ramsey County government audits to examine Hennepin County ALPR usage. His bill was approved by the Judiciary committee on Monday.
Scott’s bill was laid on the table March 8 but revisited Tuesday. There it passed without further amendments and moves on to House Public Safety and Security Policy and Finance.
Sex crime mini-omnibus: A Senate committee last week opted to roll three sex-crime measures into an unusual mini-omnibus bill.
The bill, Senate File 2699, is authored by the Senate Judiciary Committee’s chair, Sen. Warren Limmer, R-Maple Grove. It was approved by his committee in a unanimous voice vote March 6 and forwarded to the Senate Finance Committee. That committee has yet to hear it.
SF 2699 was Limmer’s response to 2017 House legislation that tried to prohibit stays of adjudication in sex crimes cases. It was included in the Public Safety omnibus bill that was authored by the House Public Safety committee’s former chair, Rep. Tony Cornish, R-Vernon Center. He has since resigned.
During House-Senate bill reconciliation hearings last year, eliminating stays faced stiff opposition. They are an important tool for prosecutors, opponents said; in their absence, children and vulnerable adults could be pressured into testifying publicly as sex-crime victims, leading some prosecutions to collapse.
“It would be better to get a stay with some kind of restriction and accountability than to lose a case and have a defendant go scot-free,” Limmer said last week.
The combined bill retains his language to preserve stays, and also requires county attorneys to produce annual reports on interfamilial sex-abuse cases where stays of adjudication are imposed in place of presumptive prison terms.
Limmer’s bill is now stirred into larger legislation with two anti-pornography measures from Sen. Julie Rosen, R-Vernon Center, and Sen. Michelle Benson, R-Ham Lake.
The combination bill requires anyone convicted of a new “enhanced felony surreptitious intrusion” crime to register as a predatory offender. Rosen proposed that in response to Janesville, Minnesota, incident in which a boys’ basketball coach got caught surreptitiously filming young athletes.
Zachary Patrick Roberts, 28, was convicted of interference with the privacy of minors and stalking with sexual intent, but he was not required to register as a predatory offender. Rosen’s proposal would correct that omission in future cases.
Benson’s proposal requires the state Public Safety Department to gather data on possession, display and dissemination of child porn. “This is data that we don’t have and are currently not collecting,” said Sgt. Grant Snyder, the Minneapolis Police Department’s lead human trafficking detective, who supports the bill.
The mini-omnibus also requires a DPS human trafficking study to include assessments of pornography’s use in boosting demand for the sex trade, as well as its use to both groom victims into selling sex and to blackmail them so they can’t quit.
It also introduces enhanced maximum penalties for felony crimes involving victims under age 13 and adds enhanced maximums for both repeat offenders and already-registered predators.
The Rosen and Limmer provisions had no House companions when they were standalone bills. Benson’s anti-trafficking measure does have a companion, House File 2967, which was approved with amendments by the House Public Safety and Security Policy and Finance Committee on March 9. It was then forwarded to Ways and Means.
Detaining mentally ill patients: It was presented as an information-only item. But half a dozen opponents urged lawmakers to reject a bill to require civilly committed mental health patients to take mandated treatment or risk being taken into custody.
The bill, House File 1139, belongs to Rep. Deb Kiel, R-Crookston, who presented it to the House Public Safety committee on March 7. It was suggested by former Rep. Doug Reuter, R-Owatonna, who previously lobbied for similar legislation in Washington state.
Reuter’s son, Joel, was a 28-year-old software engineer living in Seattle who battled bipolar disorder. He was hospitalized numerous times. Medications would temporarily stabilize him—then he’d stop taking them, his father said. In a 2014 armed standoff with Seattle police, Joel was shot and killed.
If Washington’s mandatory assisted outpatient treatment law had then been in place, he would still be alive, his father said.
The Kiel bill requires patients under mental-health civil commitment to undergo court-ordered outpatient treatment, take their medications and miss no doctor’s appointments. If the patient violates those conditions, the case manager or therapist must notify both the court and a local law enforcement agency.
“A peace officer shall take a person into custody and transport the person to a treatment facility if the law enforcement agency … has received notice of [a patient’s failure] to appear for an assisted outpatient treatment appointment,” the bill says.
Opponents include the Association of Minnesota Counties, which fears its members would bear heavy costs, and the state Chiefs of Police Association, which worries its cops would often have to haul patients to far-flung mental health facilities.
Sue Abderholden, executive director of Minnesota’s National Alliance on Mental Illness chapter, said there are “too many problems with the language.”
“Missing one appointment doesn’t mean you should be picked up by the police and brought to a facility,” Abderholden said. She encouraged lawmakers to instead consider changing the state’s civil commitment laws, a measure that her organization and its allies are working on.
The bill has support among GOP committee members, however, including Rep. Matt Grossell, R-Clearbrook.
As a young cop in 2001, Grossell was wounded after he and a deputy were sent to a motel on a welfare check of Mark Allen Patch, 26. Patch, who was mentally ill, shot Grossell in the arm. The deputy on the scene then shot and killed Patch.
“If he had been on meds he would still be with us today,” said Grossell. “Every day I think about that young man and how things might have been different if we had been able to keep track and help him in another way.”
The committee’s chair, Rep. Brian Johnson, R-Cambridge, also signaled support. “I see this bill as a possibility of stopping that endless cycle and the revolving door, “ Johnson said, “and getting these people the help they need in a respectful way.”
The committee took no immediate action. However, it is on Public Safety’s March 14 agenda, shortly after this story’s deadline, and could be voted on then.